Prepurchase Examinations

Pre-purchase Examinations

Katie lung checkEvery year in New Zealand, thousands of horses change ownership, unfortunately they don't come with a money back guarantee - so it is a good idea to have an equine veterinarian give them a thorough examination to check for any potential problems.

This is known as a pre-purchase examination.

The purchase of a horse is generally "as is" and buyer beware", this means the buyer generally bears the risk that the horse may have a problem.  A pre-purchase veterinary check is used to spot horses at-risk of requiring extensive treatment to remain healthy, or a horse that has a defect that may cause performance issues.  

The horse does not pass or fail the examination; the findings are used to alert the buyer to any pre-existing abnormalities or conditions.  This information ensures that an informed decision can be made on purchase.  We have a registered prepurchase veterinarian, Dr Katie Kindleysides, who is trained and regulated in the procedures around these examinations.

This is a mobile service we can provide across South Auckland and North Waikato regions.  We can also provide mobile imaging of any lameness concerns with our portable digital scanner and x-ray units.

A pre-purchase examination is a whole body and lameness check of a horse or pony that is under sale to check for any current or potential problems that may affect the horse's ability to perform or impact on it's welfare.

They are often a final condition of sale, performed on behalf of the buyer, and usually take place before the purchase is completed at the seller's property.  In some cases the horse is moved to a better suited facility or examination takes place at the potential purchaser's property whilst the horse/pony is 'trialled'.

For the examination an adequate handler (who can trot up the horse) is required, as well as an area of (preferably 100 meters) firm, flat ground for trot-ups.  A darkened area is required to check eyes, and in some cases an area to exercise under saddle may be requested.

The buyer/purchaser will select a registered pre-purchase veterinarian of their own choice.  As the buyer may be based a long distance from the location of the horse, their regular veterinarian cannot always attend so a more local practice is requested.  If the pre-purchase veterinarian already knows the horse or owner, permissions for the veterinarian to disclose known medical history of the horse must be gained from the seller/current owner.

The written report generated after examination and its finding are the property of the buyer and details contained within it and around conversations between veterinarian and purchaser can only be disclosed to seller or third parties at the purchaser's request.

When selecting a pre-purchase examination there are a few options to consider as to how in-depth the check will be.  Should a significant health or lameness problem be found during any point of the examination, the veterinarian may end the check early in the interest of horse welfare.  Portions of the examination deemed unsuitable or unsafe to the handler and / or veterinarian due to horse behaviour / training will be marked as so and not performed.  Buyer's may chose to be present at the examination but is not necessary and an honest, confidential discussion will take place between veterinarian and themselves after the examination which can take one to two hours minimum.


Stage 2 : Examination during walking, trotting, turning and backing

This involves a full clinical evaluation of ;
  • All body systems, including skin, heart and lung sounds, eyes and teeth are examined. Conformation, foot shape and shoeing details are also noted.
  • The horse is walked and trotted in a straight line and flexion tests are performed to look for lameness.  In some situations lunging at trot may be requested if animal and facilities allow.

Stage 5 : Examination immediately after exercise

  • The aim of this stage of the examination is to assess performance ability for normal movement and respiratory signs.  Requests for the horse to jump as advertised may be made.
  • Heart rates and lung sounds are checked immediately after exercise and during recovery
  • Trot up examinations are repeated to check for changes after work

Additional specific tests:

  1. In some cases buyer's request x-rays and/or scans of specific joints, tendons or old injury sites.
  2. We may also be asked to perform reproductive organ checks for stallions / mares intended for breeding.
  3. High intensity competition animals, such as high level eventers and racehorses, may undergo more specific airway examination with endoscopes.
  4. Blood testing for presents of calming or pain reliving medication that may alter results of the examination can be performed.  For accurate results the blood needs to be taken at the examination and processed within 24 hours.
Regardless of the level of examination selected and extra tests performed, the pre-purchase veterinarian can only comment on findings present during the short time frame the examination takes place.

Abnormal findings are common but now always significant; it is the role of the pre-purchase veterinarian to identify these, inform the buyer and discuss the risk relative to the horse's current ability and future outlook.  An informed decision can then be made regards suitability for purchase.   Further examination techniques such as x-rays may be requested at this point.

As pre-purchase reports can be required as legal documentation if issue around the sale arise, the seller / vendor and buyer / purchaser are required to fill out standard forms provided by the pre-purchase veterinarian's practice.  These forms must be completed and returned to the practice for the veterinarian to check prior to examination.

The paperwork is a chance for both parties to declare existing or previous conditions and any ongoing concerns the veterinarian needs to pay particular attention to when relaying findings.